chapter  11
4 Pages

Why Did It Happen?

First, is it right to assume that the collapse of the last of the Julio-Claudian rulers was anything but an accident, the outcome of superficial incidents, trivial in themselves but grossly mismanaged? For there are clear indications that Nero overestimated the defections of 68 and over-reacted by fleeing Rome when his doom could still be averted. Indeed Tacitus tells us that he was driven from his throne 'by messages and rumours, rather than by force of arms' .1 His initial inaction in the face of the rising of Vindex was not wholly without justification, as we have seen. There may have been hesitation by the governor of Upper Germany, but neither he nor his colleague Fonteius Capito failed Nero in the end; and the seven legions belonging to the two German commands proved loyal until after the defeat of the rebels under Vindex at Vesontio. Even then, Verginius Rufus was able to bring the troops back to their allegiance by refusing the Empire for himself. Had Nero himself appeared before the German troops or his forces in northern Italy, his resolution might well have inspired more prompt and decisive action. Of these forces, he had recruited I Italica less than two years before and I Adiutrix for the present crisis; the British legion XIV Gemina was famed for its loyalty to him even after his death. 2 Nothing suggests that these legions favoured Galba over the descendant of Augustus, while their commanders, V erginius and Petroni us, were apparently unwilling to seduce them away from Nero, until word came from Rome.